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Gay NHL staffer: ‘I wish every person coming out could experience what I’ve experienced’

Joe Altenau finds overwhelming support in the NHL.

Toronto Maple Leafs v New Jersey Devils
Joe Altenau has found total acceptance from co-workers and fans with the New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center.
Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

When New Jersey Devils staff member Joe Altenau first reached out to me, he didn’t even know he wanted to share his story of being a gay man in professional sports. Yet the opportunity was both scary and intriguing to him. While he was nervous about what the reactions might be, he had faith that it would all work out in the end.

Like virtually everyone who has come out publicly in sports over the last decade, his faith was well-placed. About 48 hours after we posted his story on Outsports, he sent me the following email:

“It was honestly not something that I would have offered up without your invitation, and now having gone through the process I'm so glad I did.

“I've heard from colleagues, vendors, high school and college teammates, the CEO of our company, all offering support for the article. I never could have imagined the overwhelming support that I have received. While everyone at work knows, I don't necessarily talk about being gay with everyone, and this article offered the opportunity to have some incredible conversations that I never thought possible.

“I have been so incredibly moved that words truly cannot describe it. One vendor called me within minutes of the story being published to express his support. I was so touched, it's a phone call I will never forget.

“If I could have one wish it would be that every person who is coming out could experience what I've experienced over the past 48 hours. I know everyone has to come out at their own pace but if you have anyone who has questions about the process or what it was like for me at work I'd love to be able to share my story.”

What’s so amazing is that virtually everyone who has shared their story through Outsports has expressed the same overwhelmingly warm reaction from people on their team. I say “virtually” because I suppose there are one or two in the last five years who have held negative reactions from me. Maybe. Possibly.

Either way, big thanks to Joe for sharing his story on Outsports and opening more eyes to the incredibly inclusive landscape of sports in 2017!

You are welcome to reach out to Joe Altenau on Facebook, or via email at JAltenau@prucenter.com.

And if you’d like to share your story on Outsports, check this out.